by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Devorim (71)Devarim 1:16
And I commanded your judges at that time saying: 'Listen [to disputes] between your brothers and you are to judge them justly between a man and his brother and between his stranger.
and between his stranger Rashi: This refers to his disputant who merely gathers (Hebrew: "Oger") words (without foundation) against him. Or another interpretation: on matters regarding their dwelling place (Hebrew: "Gar" to dwell) the division of property between brothers even if it is a dispute (only) about an oven and a kitchen range.
An obvious question: This comment has its source in midrash Sifri and the Talmud (Sanhedrin 7b). Why does Rashi (and the midrash) ignore the simple meaning of 'his stranger' ( Hebrew: 'gairo") which usually means a convert and instead chooses seemingly far fetched translations, taking the word 'ger' as 'gathering" or, in his second interpretation, as 'dwelling" ?
Actually the context seems to support translating the word 'ger' as stranger. Because first part of the verse speaks of doing justice between brothers (fellow Jews) and then even between those we are not blood brothers (strangers).
Can you see what is bothering him?
Hint: Look closely at the Hebrew word "gairo".
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: The pronoun "his" in "his stranger" is quite unusual and really incomprehensible. A ger who is a convert is not "his " convert ! He is everyone's convert!
This is probably what clued Rashi (and the midrash) into reading this word not in the usual manner.
A CLOSER LOOK
Rashi's last words "even if it is a dispute (only) about an oven and a kitchen range" -are a bit strange.
What does he mean and how does he come to this?
A difficult question:
A CLOSER UNDERSTANDING
An Answer: The meaning seems to be that even though the disputants are fighting over a whole house, even smaller, less valuable objects, like a kitchen range (not in our day!) also must be divided fairly. The commentaries suggest that there is a play on words here. The Hebrew word "geir" geyrim - strangers can, by interchanging the Hebrew letter 'gimel' for the letter 'kaf' , come to mean "kirayim" (range). Word play is legit in a midrashic interpretation.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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